About Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area


Still officially listed as the Fort Edward IBA, the Washington County Grasslands received Audubon’s IBA, or Important Bird Area, designation in 1997. Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, provide essential habitat for one or more species of birds listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern. IBAs often support a significant proportion of those species’ total population.

“IBAs have the unique power to unite people, communities, and organizations in proactive bird conservation, one place at a time” - Frank Gill, National Audubon Society

The Washington County Grasslands IBA is one of the few remaining large continuous grasslands in Eastern NY. It provides critical habitat for state endangered Short-eared Owls and “exceptional” grassland breeding and wintering habitat for many other grassland birds, including almost a dozen other threatened, at-risk and rapidly declining grassland bird species.

Raptors like Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers depend on the IBA’s vast, open expanses of grasslands to accommodate their low aerial hunting style. The IBA also provides these awesome birds with large populations of the small mammals (mice, shrews and voles) that are their primary prey.

This approximately 13,000 acre largely agricultural area is encompassed within the towns of Fort Edward, Argyle and Kingsbury. The Nature Conservancy currently owns almost 300 acres of a 2000 acre core area of the IBA identified as “critical” to the survival of Short-eared Owls in New York State. 

Friends of the IBA, Audubon New York, The Nature Conservancy and Agricultural Stewardship Association are working with New York State D.E.C. to conserve this vital habitat through conservation easements or land purchases from willing sellers. However, the remainder of this core area remains unprotected.

Comprehensive site specific surveys have not been conducted for each IBA, therefore, this information cannot be relied on as a definitive statement of the presence or absence of all species in a given area. This information should not be considered a substitute for on-site surveys that may be required for an environmental assessment or conservation planning.